Sun | Oct 20, 2019

Bert Samuels | Prisoners must never be forgotten

Published:Tuesday | June 25, 2019 | 12:19 AM

To lock away is to discard, forget, or place out of reach. Unfortunately, you cannot do that to the human spirit.

Mandela walked into freedom and then into becoming head of state, followed by world recognition as a martyr. He was locked away for seeking to overthrow the ‘legitimate’ government of racist South Africa. His charge – treason.

Christian teaching in Matthew 25, verses 43-45, speaks to the punishment that will come upon those who neglect to visit those in prison. The new Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, in Section 14 (5), directs that “Any person deprived of his liberty shall be treated humanely and with respect for the inherent dignity of the person”.

And, as to those who have stepped out of line, Kahlil Gibran cautions, “Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world”.

He goes on to make the point that “…when one of you falls down, he falls for those behind him, a caution against the stumbling stone.”

BE CONCERNED

We must also admit that the criminal justice system is not perfect, so there are prisoners who are innocent of that for which they have been incarcerated. That’s a whole different kettle of injustice, for another discussion.

So, as we acknowledge that Garvey was imprisoned for five years, and three other national heroes executed innocently, we can start rehabilitating our minds in the way we look at those locked away. They are not to be forgotten, as, for the most part, they will be released to become part of our communities again.

We must, therefore, allow them to be schooled and shown new skills while imprisoned. It makes good sense, if nothing else, that we be concerned about those who must rejoin us in the procession of life.

We must always be mindful of Gibran’s chide concerning us and those who have fallen afoul of the law “…he falls, for those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot, yet removed not the stumbling stone.”

Bert Samuels is an attorney-at-law. E-mail feedback to bert.samuels@gmail.com and columns@gleanerjm.com